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An Artist's Journey

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Chapter 7: Freelancing, Teaching and Creating a Home

 

By now, I was reasonably well connected to the business community so I was able to attract work after leaving Design Resources. Still, it seemed a good idea to let people know that I was available and what I could do for them.

Self-promotional poster sent to local agencies and businesses

In the summer of 1981, shortly after setting up shop in my little rented house, the owners approached me with an offer to buy the property. I didn't have the financial resources and, in the economy of that era, interest rates of 15%-16% were the norm. Still, I agreed to set the process in motion and see what happened.

A lot happened. My father offered to co-sign the loan, a family friend chipped in a little cash, and the owners lent me the small down payment in a separate loan. In September, 1981, the deal was consummated and I "owned" the property at a bargain interest rate of 12.75% with a 30-year mortgage. The purchase price was $65,000.

This is the property when purchased in September, 1981. It included this small 2-bedroom house in the front and the very small 1-bedroom unit in the back that I lived in. It is on a 50' x 140' lot on Linden Street in the Blenman-Elm district in the middle of Tucson.

This is the small house in the back where I still live today. The property has changed rather dramatically since then.

I rented out the front house and immediately began remodeling the "casita". First I knocked out interior walls separating the tiny bedroom and kitchen from the living room. Then a friend, Dan Castelan (brother of Dave from school and Elmer Graphics), built an adobe beehive fireplace inside. By the fall of 1981 I had the beginnings of a new space.

Here is the bedroom corner before and after Dan built the fireplace.

The yard got attention, too. I began to treat the entire property, inside and out, as a continuous art project.

This storage shed was built from scrap lumber.

Bottles were stacked into the sides of the shed. The play of light was enchanting at certain times of the day.

This was a fence sculpture created with scrap canvas from the Natural Duck warehouse and native desert bamboo that grows in the yard. It held up surprisingly well through all kinds of weather for a few years.

At the same time I was providing a photostat service for other graphic artists with the VGC camera I brought home from Design Resources. A small, semi-regular flow of freelancers would stop by to have artwork reproduced or re-sized to fit their design needs. They were also friends and their visits were social occasions. One of those graphic artists, Sally Milo, brought a friend along one day. Her name was Kim, and Sally thought we should meet. We had an immediate and deep connection. She was in the process of breaking up with her husband of that time and eventually moved in with me.

Kim changed her name to Kim Allyn after her divorce.

She was (and still is) a remarkably psychic person and a gifted healer. We had many fascinating metaphysical adventures that are beyond the scope of this narrative. Our relationship shifted by summer, 1982, and although she moved out, we have remained closely connected to this day.

The mix of personal adventures and business projects continued at a steady rate. Still, self-employment is often just a euphemism for unemployment, and there were periodic dry spells. Money was always tight but I managed to get enough work to survive.

This was a promotional calendar commissioned by a local radio station. The illustrations were done with design markers.

These national ads were done with Karen Liptak, an important business associate and friend. Arizona Mail Order was her client. She brought me in to design and produce the ads and assist with the photo sessions.

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I also designed this self-promotional brochure for Karen.

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Typical work for other local clients

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I received a call from the University Art Department to inquire if I would be interested in filling in for Professor Heldt while he was on sabbatical during the 1983 spring semester. I accepted and took over his illustration and graphic design classes while continuing to freelance.

This was a demonstration watercolor for an illustration class at the UofA. I enjoyed exposing students to the process of producing a design or illustration by doing a sample for them. When possible, I would create it in the classroom while they watched and asked questions.

 

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